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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Over 500,000 PAGE VIEWS!!!! WHHHAAAAT?! This is NOT the End!!!




It seems that running a blog, which takes time and energy, is rather difficult to do when these isn't anyway to finance the time one spends writing what one likes to write about. This inevitably causes delays in publishing fresh content.

My brothers-in-blog Mike D. and Bud Uzoras at the A-Unicornist and Dead-Logic respectively, have taken indefinite hiatuses from their regular blog publishing schedules. I was going to try and buck the trend by sticking around like a sore thumb, but then something strangely peculiar yet wonderfully amazing happened.

I got signed to a 12 book deal with Permuted Press and their bran spanking new new imprint Winlock Press.

No, no. You read that right. A 12 book deal! I am beside myself, because being picked up by a competitive press with the output and quality, not to mention industry reputation, that Permuted Press has and to be part of a new publishing push to get more Indy authors into the mainstream publishing world just makes me ecstatic beyond belief.

I have to give a special thanks to the lovely Monique Happy who now heads Winlock Press and who made it all happen for me. She is one great lady!

But I hope you know what this means. It means that, although this is NOT the end of The Advocatus Atheist, it does mean that I probably won't publish regularly. I say that fresh off the heels of hitting a milestone of over half a million page views! So I obviously am not throwing in the towel. 

Just don't expect weekly or even monthly updates. But stick around. Enjoy the archives. And if you want to keep track of my other published works, make sure you add my official author page to your favorites list:




I still have the Swedish Fish book coming out in the near future, and I probably will be doing more self published works alongside my contract work, but the contract work takes president over everything, including this blog, because it pays the checks.

Additionally, I have a new son, and babies eat up a lot of energy, time, and money too. So blogging just becomes less and less feasible. It makes me sad, because I love this blog. I love adding my two cents to the public discourse and providing valuable social commentary (I'm sure). But, it doesn't pay the bills. 

Also, my dream of writing full time won't be achieved if I sit around blogging all day. So getting to work on the 12 novels I've been signed to do is what I will be focusing on from here on out.

I just felt that I should let you all know, since you know, it takes some real loyal readers to get to 500,000 freakin page views. So thank you, all!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

8 Questions I'd Ask God: If He Existed

8 Questions I'd Ask God: If He Existed


1. What's with man-nipples? Are they for just in case we got captured by Amazonian warrior women and needed to blend in so that we could make our great escape? I bet that's it. Really, there's no other reason for them.



2. What's the deal with Salmon's reproduction? You make them so they have to swim up stream, leap up freakin' waterfalls, only to lay all their eggs and die. Some kind of sick and twisted joke perhaps? 



3. What's your obsession with beetles, bugs, parasites, viruses, and bacteria? I mean, sure, they're neat and all, but if it's the human soul you are concerned with, what's this obsession with insects and the like? Just a weird hobby, perhaps?



4. Why did it take six to seven days to create the world? If you're all powerful it should have been a cinch, right? Didn't get it right the first time maybe? Had to make a few corrections perhaps?



5. What's with all the ugly people? There are over 7 billion people on the planet and most of them are ugos. I mean, no offense, if that's your thing. I know beauty is only skin deep, in the eye of the beholder and all that, but it seems to me if you were a wise creator then you would have made everyone physically attractive so that ugly people wouldn't be hurt by so much rejection and beautiful people would have no teason to be so vain.



6. If 90% of scientists and philosophers don't believe in you and go to hell (what's up with that anyway?) then what does that say about the quality of people you like to hang out with when you segregate 90% of the worlds intellectuals, thinkers, inventors, men of words and science. Afraid of the competition, maybe?



7. Couldn't have made a few other planets closer by for us to travel too? Have to make everything so freakin far that we'd have to rely on the aforementioned brilliant minds to get us there? Is that why you send most of the worlds population to hell? You simply don't want us to spread to the stars and become godlike in our own right? 



8. Why create sin, knowing people will sin, then damn them for it? Why not accept the fact that people sin, learn to forgive and forget, and let bygones be? It seems most of us do just fine without you--namely every culture, every race, every group of humans that haven't believed or have believed in the wrong gods throughout all history--and so you're going to trim down your chosen few to even fewer? To people who can't think, are scientifically ignorant, and who only want to pray to the sky all day? I have my reservations on such a fetish, but to each his own, I suppose.



BONUS QUESTIONS:



9. Does it bother you that science can answer all of these questions, from social behavior of humans and animals, to the universe, to the proliferation of insects (including beetles) and, yes, even man nipples but you can't? 



10: I'm not even going to ask you for a sign that you exist, because it's clearly obvious that you don't. 



Sorry, that last one was more of a statement really. But oh, well. The brevity was worth it.


POST SCRIPT

To the believer who rightly informs me that I am merely critiquing the simplistic, iron-aged, conceptualization of a Creator God and not the theologically superior God of all things, that winked the universe into being ex nihilo and that willed evolution via natural selection to be the engine of his wondrous variety of life, I only have this question to ask: What's the use of a God that hides behind the veil of nature, that makes himself undetectable, and in all likelihood irrelevant? It seems that such a God would be a rather useless kind of deity. 

Of course, if your answer is that God wanted a personal relationship with us, please try again. It's obvious that if the majority of the people who ever lived and died didn't believe in your God, well, then he wasn't a very important God and he certainty didn't demonstrate he wanted a relationship with all those (in the billions) who died not believing. 

For that matter, why are there atheists? 

Do you really think all nonbelievers are rebel sinners? Hedonistic, do what they want, rotten to the core people who are simply in defiance of God? If that's what you think, you need to get out more. Make a few friends. And open your eyes to the great and hard working humanists out there who do so much good without believing in God. Ever hear of Doctors Without Borders? 

If you still think my objections are juvenile and ill conceived, just know that I was a devout believer for three long decades. Maybe it's not a rhetorical jab of acerbic criticism I am dolling out, maybe it is the hard to handle conclusion after years of deep and reflective thought on the subject. 

If you still don't think my questions are all that worth bothering about, that's fine. Best not to think about it too much. Speaking from experience, that's one of the best ways to become an atheist. 

;)~ 



Saturday, October 4, 2014

On the Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, and Sam Harris Debate: Some Thoughts

I hunted down a longer clip of the heated debate that occurred on the Bill Maher show between Ben Affleck, Sam Harris, and Maher. If you haven't seen it, watch the longer version here before reading my own thoughts.



After giving it some thought, I think it was a big example of miscommunication on top of talking past one another.

Affleck wasn't wrong about Maher and Harris painting all of Islam with a broad stroke. They are guilty of this virtually every time they open their mouths. But in this case I think Sam Harris made a more than valid point that just went over Ben's head.

Harris' point about the number of Muslim practitioners estimated at around 1.6 billion adherents and the fact that 20% of Islam is practiced by legalistic, fundamentalist Muslims, and a fraction of that percentage being a radical element, means that there are over 200 million Muslims who believe in the literal interpretation of the Koran and Islam's core tenets, which include calling for the death of apostates, gays, and non-believers who will not convert by force.

On a second viewing I finally got what Affleck intended by his "Shifty-Jew" analogy. He was basically claiming that Maher and Harris were guilty of making a genetic fallacy. That because all Muslims are Islamic then they all must be Islamic radicals because all Islamic radical are Muslim.

But I don't actually think that's what Harris had in mind, which is the point they began talking past each other.

Harris was simply concerned with the bad ideologies present in the religion of Islam which statistics show 200 million people take literally. Contrary to what Ben Affleck thought, Harris wasn't making a genetic fallacy. If there is any doubt as to the issue, Jerry Coyne over at his blog Why Evolution is True shares some depressing statistics with regard to current trends and attitudes within Islamic countries.

At the same time, I have to say this debate is just another reason that I have recently come to feel Sam Harris is not a good platform speaker, and in my opinion a little thick-skulled. He simply throws out statistics and broad generalizations and neglects to actually *listen* to his opponent's criticisms.

If Sam would have simply told Ben that he was concerned predominantly with the 200 million fundamentalist Muslims, not a small number mind you, and not the moderate majority of Muslims overall (as it seemed at first) then Ben would have probably backed off sooner. But as it turns out, Harris just sticks to his guns, and keeps forcing the same point home again, only clarifying later when it's already too late, doing nothing to diffuse the earlier confusion regarding his criticism.

Sam's telling Ben that he (Ben) didn't understand his (Sam's) argument on national television was plainly rude. It made me lose a little respect for Harris, whose slip up revealed his passive-aggressive calm demeanor to be little more than an act, pointing to the fact that he is just as worthy of an actor as Ben Affleck is. 

It was clear to me too that Ben didn't quite get the criticism, but pointing it out toward the end of the argument just to get the last word in seemed to me a little crass. You don't understand my argument, so your prior criticism isn't valid, you goddamn idiot Ben!, Sam seemed to be saying.

But Ben Affleck's previous criticism, although missing the side of the barn, is not a bad point and it is one worth making (perhaps at a more appropriate time in a similar debate).

Many Muslims do get painted with too broad a brush, especially by intellectual liberals like Harris and Maher who refuse to back down from their ideological position so adamantly that you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for ideologues instead of genuine critical thinkers.

Ben's comment that we shouldn't bunch Muslim women into the radical, fanatic Jihadist category if they are of the peaceful Muslim majority who just want to go to school and eat sandwiches, was a good point.

At the same time, Harris' point that Islam is the mother-load of bad ideas isn't entirely wrong either. Well, it's a bit poorly stated, but his point that Islam contains a disproportionate number of sinister and pernicious teachings as compared to the good ones is apparent to anyone who has ever read the Koran or listened to the teachings contained in the hadith.

There is indeed a wealth, or mother-load, of bad teachings and ideas for modern Muslims to contend with, but this is mainly due to the fact that the Koran, like the Bible, is a man-made text written in a ignorant and warring age by men who held what we consider today to be archaic and outmoded views.

The fact that many Muslims will undeniably cite the Koran, just as Christians do their Bible, as a guiding moral source goes all the way back to one of Harris' most scathing quotes about the Bible probably being the world's worst sources for morality humanity has ever invented, if we didn't also have the Koran, that is.

As for the debate on the term Islamaphobe, I think this should have been the key focus of this particular discussion.

I agree with Sam that the term Islamaphobe gets bandied about needlessly. Also, to call people genuinely fearful of the threat of violent and extremist elements of Islam "Islamaphobes" is like calling a person with a petrifying fear of spiders an "Aarachnophobe." In other words, the term accurately reflects a very real fear, even if that fear isn't always entirely rational.

The problem is, the term Islamaphobe has become a dirty catch-all word to silence any detractors of Islam who would seek to offer widespread criticism for Islam's more pernicious tenets. So the broad brush strokes are being painted on both sides of the canvas here.

At the same time, this doesn't mean their aren't racist or bigoted attitudes which exist with regard to Muslims and what they believe. There are. And many do fit the negative definition of Islamaphobe, just as many fit the catch-all phrase homophobe, for their intolerant and bigoted views of homosexuals and gay rights.

The key difference, however, I would point out is that there isn't an underlying homosexual ideology that calls for the conversion or death of all non-homosexuals and seeks to impose violence on anyone who disrespect the holy gay pride rainbow. Such a vocal minority, however, does exist within mainstream Islam. So the term Islamaphobe is muddied by the fact that both intolerant bigots and genuinely fearful people exist with regard to the Islamic religion.

All this is just to say there do exist valid reasons to fear certain aspects and interpretations of Islam.

But this discussion didn't happen. Instead, Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, and Sam Harris simply had a ball talking past each other and not taking the adequate amount of time to listen to what the other side was trying to say. It was a perfect display of the religious debate being interrupted by overly domineering personalities that, although well meaning, failed to comprehend the most important part of any debate--understanding the other side's position.





Friday, October 3, 2014

The Story of a Teen Who Humped a Jesus Statue in the Face: Or Why Legally Punishing Someone for a Non-Crime IS Criminal



Channel 6 WJAC news in Pennsylvania has reported the follow up to the Pennsylvania teen who was earlier charged with criminal misconduct based on an obscure PA law and threatened with up to 2 years in prison for doing nothing more criminal than posing in front of a Jesus statue.

The poses were sexual in nature, sure, but this lewd act done in jest was quicly forgiven by the party offended. It was only the radical religionist district attorney Bill Higgins that decided to mount a holy crusade against what he perceives as a ideological war of 'us vs. them' and theist vs. atheist.

I have talked to Mr. Higgins personally and I have come to the rational minded conclusion that Mr. Higgins isn't, in fact, in his rational mind. He is quite delusional. 

I am going to analyse the comments he made as reported by WJAC Channel 6 news on the court ruling along with my own personal commentary.

First off, Higgins is not wrong, there is an ideological war being waged, but I'm afraid it's being wage by theocratic bullies like him who wish to impose his religious belief system on others regardless of what the law may state, obvious by his startling and complete disregard for the First Amendment.

Channel 6 WJAC reports as to the final sentence of the teenager:

The boy was admitted into juvenile diversionary program after being charged with desecration of a venerated object stemming. He posted a picture of himself performing lewd acts on a statue of Jesus Christ that was outside the Love in the Name of Christ church in Everett on July 20.

The boy appeared before Judge Thomas Ling and agreed to a consent decree signed by all parties involved, including the boy, his mother and his attorney, Karen Hickey. The boy must not use social media during a six-month probation period as well as perform 350 hours of community service.

Among the other punishments, he must obey a curfew of 10 p.m., no alcohol or other controlled substances monitored by random drug testing and stay in school.

District Attorney Bill Higgins presented the decree to the court.

After accepting the agreement and while settling the number of community service hours, Judge Ling focused on the religious rights of Love in the Name of Christ, noting that the juvenile’s actions infringed upon their rights to practice their faith. Upon successful completion of these terms and conditions, his case will be dismissed and the juvenile will have no criminal record.

This should frighten anyone within their right mind, because it shows that an unconstitutional law put into the hands of overly religious zealots can be used to inflict an unjust tyranny upon the populace. 

Bill Higgins is a theocratic bully, because he is making a scapegoat out of a legal minor to serve a not so subtle religious agenda. Mr. Higgins should really try to pick on somebody his own size. But instead he is contended to shoot fish in a barrel. I think this tells us all we need to know about the character of Bill Higgins.

The problem is, I'm afraid, that Higgins holy crusade reflects the very lack of empathy, compassion, and understanding that most theocratic societies lack. This should come as no surprise, but it is no less disconcerting.

Notice that the teenager has been banned from using social media. On the surface, this appears like a trivial sentencing, no big deal. In fact, it is the punishment most concerned parents would administer to their own rebellious children if they caught them doing something like the teen did in this case. But such a notion would be wrong. Unlike a concerned parent's punishment this punishment is a legally binding sentence as part of the boys parole.

It's not simply an act of stern parenting, it is the legal imposition onto the boy's daily habits and choices as a free citizen. If he even gets caught using social media once in what appears to be an abnormally long period of banishment (a full half-year? Really?) the incident would risk becoming criminal and therefore give the zealot Bill Higgins all the incentive he needed to legally charge the teen with a criminal misconduct thereby placing a black mark on the boys permanent criminal record.

Needless to say, the conditions set--done so rather arbitrarily I might add (a full half-year? What's the logic behind that?) could lead to sentencing the teen to a stricter sentence if he fails to adhere to all the conditions of the sentence. 

First off, this is not okay. 

Second of all, banning a kid from social media is like banning a kid from video games and hanging out with his friends. Does Bill Higgins seriously think that is a realistic or even worthy punishment? If so, Bill Higgins has more to worry about than just his total lack of empathy.

Thirdly, does it not bother people that the judge seems equally brainwashed here? How does what the boy did infringe upon the religious group Love in the Name of Christ's right to practice their faith? 

What the boy did was symbolic of something else, and there didn't seem to be any malicious intent directed at the Name of Christ organization, which is why they dropped all charges.

Yet this teenager is facing strict punishment and legally binding parole?

Do we need any more proof that America is a theocracy? How can this even come to pass?

Well, it requires a legal understanding of very specific laws. If it wasn't for Bill Higgins legal knowledge, or the fact that he practices law in Pennsylvania, this case wouldn't even be a case.

You see, most states do not have such laws because they recognize them as unconstitutional if not completely outmoded. Additionally, even if such laws exist on the books, they tend to be ignored because they are recognized as either unconstitutional or completely outmoded.

Unless you happen to live in Pennsylvania, that is, which has too many old blowhards in top authority positions who also happen to be right wing fanatics who care more about witch hunts than they do protecting the legal rights of the citizenry. How is punishing this boy protecting the legal rights of Christians? It's almost as if Bill Higgins and Justice North (please don't pardon this intentional slip) believe that Christians being offended is a crime worth legally punishing.

If so, then they clearly have their work cut out for them, because offending people's feelings is only criminal in the most backwards of countries where theocracy reigns supreme. I find it rather telling that Bill Higgins doesn't beat around the bush to which version of America he fantasizes about living in--and to which he will go through extreme measures to ensure becomes the great land of intolerance and hypersensitivity which much of the Islamic nations have become and in which their people must constantly endure the fear of statewide retaliation to their mere thoughts and opinions, because in a theocracy, every little offense matters.  

This is cause for concern.

In the article Bill Higgins is reported as saying:

"I know that there are many groups that say this case is about religious rights, and quite frankly, they are right. But it is the religious rights of the Christian organization that owns the statue and has placed it for display on their private property that have been implicated. They have every right to practice their faith unmolested. In American, we all enjoy the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to practice our religious beliefs without interference, but that right ends where those same rights of another begin."
Bill Higgins is guilty of not only favoritism, by his own admission no less, but the fact that he views this as a holy crusade and has admitted as much--just so you know I wasn't being hyperbolic in my choice of words. 

Second of all, the teenager did not molest any Christians who were practicing their faith. He molested an inanimate object when no Christians were around. That is a key difference which shouldn't go overlooked.

Further, this so-called molestation (I say so-called because the statue never complained any--and it does look like that particular Jesus was begging for it) only was discovered online after the fact. So the only people who could feel molested were those who confused seeing something mildly offensive as obscene and then condemning it as pornography and then going about finding some obscure anti-pornography law to punish the teen after the fact.

All this is troubling, to say the least.  

Perhaps more obscene, however, is the amount of time, energy and money Bill Higgins has devoted to specifically wasting the time, energy and money of others. The channel 6 WJAC article goes on to report Higgins as having said:

“As I have previously noted, Facebook and street corners are not the proper place to resolve constitutional issues, and while there has been a whole lot of name calling, character assassination and threats of retaliation, there has been no effort by any of these advocacy groups to actually challenge the constitutionality of the statute in question through the legal process.” 

A couple of things.

Since this is an obscure state law then only those who reside in Pennsylvania have any legal authority to challenge the law, unless of course, for some reason, the case were taken to the Supreme Court in which case the Supreme Court would decide the constitutionality of the law, not the people of Pennsylvania. 

Furthermore, since this entire incident was found out about via Facebook it is hypocritical in the extreme to say that Facebook is not the place to resolve constitutional issues when you, in fact, are doing just that. Bill Higgins proves that he not only thinks people are dumber than he is, he also reveals himself to be the worst kind of hypocrite. But Higgins isn't done wowing us with his crass disregard for others quite yet. He goes on to inform:

“He is a 14-year-old boy with the potential to have a bright future. I am confident that if he applies himself, he can put this matter behind him and become a productive citizen.”

Apparently Mr. Higgins has appointed himself supreme dictator of what constitutes a productive citizen.

Never mind the fact that the teen may very well already be a worthy and productive citizen. It's just that, well, he did that one thing that one time that somebody didn't like.

And for that, a sea of endless troubles.

As a concerned citizen of the United States, if I were to offer Mr. Higgins any advice, it would be to get a life and stop wasting everyone else's time. We might also hope that he'd grow a conscience while he was at it. Although short of a genuine miracle, that doesn't seem very likely. 




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bibliography Update! The Swedish Fish: Deflating the Scuba Diver and Working the Rabbits Foot: Answering Christian Apologetics


It's crunch time as I near the end of my second wave of editing before the book goes out for eyes to see, then more editing. After ten months of research, I feel it has progressed quite well, and so I share with you and updated bibliography to the book. Since I have six more chapters to edit, the bibliography may expand a little more depending on whether or not I need to cite any more sources, but this is a good look at what the final Bibliography will look like. 

You may also notice that I don't cite any websites (unless they are an online journal). I chose to keep all my online references contained to in-text bibliographical material, so the links are contained in the footnotes rather than collected at the end. 

I know many books these days tend to have a special bibliographies dedicate to just the web-sources, but seeing as that is about half my citations it would run at least as long as the full bibliography, which would be too long, so I've opted to keep them in the footnotes only. 

You may see the final bibliography in the published version of the book once it is released. With that said, enjoy the extended bibliography! 



The Swedish Fish: Deflating the Scuba Diver and Working the Rabbits Foot: Answering Christian Apologetics


 BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Bennett, Bo. Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of over 300 Logical Fallacies. Sudbury: Ebookit.com, 2012.

Benson, Herbert Et Al. "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in Cardiac Bypass Patients: A Multicenter Randomized Trial of Uncertainty and Certainty of Receiving Intercessory Prayer." American Heart Journal 151, no. 4 (May 5, 2005): 934-42. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2005.05.028.

Bering, Jesse. The Belief Instinct. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Blake, William. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: In Full Color. New York: Dover Publications, 1994.

Boghossian, Paul Artin. Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006.

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Carrier, Richard. Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn’t Need a Miracle to Succeed. United States?: Lulu.com, 2009.

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Clifford, William Kingdon, William James, and A. J. Burger. The Ethics of Belief: Essays by William Kingdon Clifford, William James, A. J. Burger. Scotts Valley, CA: CreateSpace, 2008.

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Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Day, John. Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

Demetriou, Andreas, Willem Doise, and C. F. M. Van. Lieshout. Life-span Developmental Psychology. Chichester: J. Wiley & Sons, 1998.

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Ehrman, Bart D. Forged: Writing in the Name of God: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. New York: HarperOne, 2011.

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Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005.

Fajnzylber, Pablo, Daniel Lederman, and Norman Loayza. “Inequality and Violent Crime.” The Journal of Law and Economics 45, no. 1 (12 2002): 1-39. doi:10.1086/338347.

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Foote, George W. Seasons of Freethought: The Collected Works of G.W. Foote. Edited by Tristan Vick. Kumamoto: Hungry Word Publications, 2013.

Fosnot, Catherine Twomey. Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice. New York: Teachers College Press, 1996.

Fox, James Alan., and Jack Levin. The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001.

Freke, Timothy, and Peter Gandy. The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "original Jesus" a Pagan God? New York: Harmony Books, 2000.

Funk, Cary, and Greg Smith. "‘Nones’ on the Rise." Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. October 9, 2012. Accessed March 16, 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/.

Glasersfeld, Ernst Von. Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning. London: Falmer Press, 1995.

Gockel, Galen L. “Income and Religious Affiliation: A Regression Analysis.” American Journal of Sociology 74, no. 6 (12 1969): 632. doi:10.1086/224714.

Goldstein, Sydney. “Socioeconomic Differential among Religious Groups in the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 74, no. 6 (May, 1969): 612-631. doi:10.1086/224714.

Grau C, Ginhoux R, Riera A, Nguyen TL, Chauvat H, et al. “Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies” edited Mikhail A. Lebedev. PLoS ONE 9 no. 8 (2014): e105225. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105225

Grayling, A. C. The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Greene, J. D. "An FMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment." Science 293, no. 5537 (01, 2001): 2105-108. doi:10.1126/science.1062872.

Greene, Joshua David. Moral Tribes. Emotion, Reason, and the Gap between Us and Them. New York: Penguin Press, 2013.

Hackett, Conrad, and Brian J. Grim. "The Global Religious Landscape." Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. December 2012. Accessed March 18, 2014. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/.

Hansen, James E. Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to save Humanity. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009.

Harris, Sam. Free Will. New York: Free Press, 2012.

Haycock, Dean A. Murderous Minds: Exploring the Criminal Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil. W W Norton & Co, 2014.

Heimlich, Janet. Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011.

Heine, Steven. "Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods” published in Religious Studies Review 39, no. 1 (12 2013): 53. doi:10.1111/rsr.12020_6.

Helms, Randel. Gospel Fictions. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Twelve, 2007.

Hoffmann, R. Joseph. Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010.

Holbach, Paul Henri Thiry. Good Sense. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004.

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To Whom It Offends

Gods and Kings so great that they fold under the mere weight of opinions like oragami seek to erect laws which threaten violence against their kingdom and call any opinion they find disdainful a blasphemy. It is known by a wise few that blasphemy is anything the powerful wish to find themselves outraged by, and then cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war against all opinions that offend their crystalline sensitivities, while whipping their devotees into a rabid enthusiasm, that lustful hate, which condemns the other and demands undeserved adoration from those they seek to intimidate. Paper Gods and Kings want nothing more than to be the gaolers of opinions, because they know that razor sharp opinions lent by minds just as sharp could cut them down like straw, for they are not made of sterner stuff--they crumple and fold so easily--paper Gods and Kings. Oh, woe! Their followers weep fanatic crocodile tears at the mere thought of their exalted idol's contortions under the weight of any little trifling contention. Oh, woe betide anyone whose words provoke, these paper thin Gods and Kings to which blasphemy offends. Thus our flimsy paper potentates use their great power to press all opinions into the flattest and most unimpressive form--the form of imitation--opinions as flat as those of folding paper Gods and Kings.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Yahweh's Evolution: A Look at the Israelite Pantheon and the Journey from Polytheism to Monotheism (From Chapter 20: The Vacuity of Christian Faith of The Swedish Fish)



Yahweh's Evolution: A Look at the Israelite Pantheon and the Journey from Polytheism to Monotheism (From Chapter 20: The Vacuity of Christian Faith of The Swedish Fish)

We begin chapter twenty “Would a Most Perfect Being Have a Most Imperfect Church?” with the continued comparison of the Christian concept of God with the Greek concept of Zeus. Randal affirms:

While Zeus was created by other gods, Christians and Jews always taught that Yahweh is the creator of all things … The difference between various concepts of God is important for eliminating certain descriptions of the most perfect being.

Remember my earlier objection to the method of assigning templates to your chosen God concept as a way to reject competing definitions as not compatible with your template? Holding up dissimilar God-concepts to your randomly selected template, and then saying this definition fits but that other one doesn’t, is easy. But in essence, all one has done is show that some definitions fit arbitrary religious templates better than others. This is to be expected. But one hasn’t proved anything yet.
Regardless, there is more to object to than Randal’s obstinate insistence that his God concept is the only one in town. Randal is simply wrong on all accounts here.
First off, the statement that God is the creator of all things and the statement that God had a creator (in this case other gods) are two entirely separate statements. The Christian God may very well be the creator of “all things” as legend has it, but that doesn’t mean he created himself. It means all the things we know were created by god, but since we don’t know what gods might exist, or what their evolutionary histories may be, or whether it requires gods to create gods, we cannot simply assume that the Christian God was not created or didn’t have parents.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Randal is mistaken in thinking that Jewish mythology begins and ends with Christian mythology. Superimposing your belief system on another people’s belief system doesn’t automatically make your belief system the correct one. In point of fact, Israel and its people were still a polytheistic before the exile, or more precisely between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BCE.[1] The Israelites worshipped a pantheon of gods including El, Asherah, Baal, Moloch, Kaus, and Yahweh, just to name a few.[2] Most scholars consider El and Yahweh separate gods even though it would appear that Yahweh later got hypostatized with El into one and the same deity by the time the Torah was composed. [3] Even so, an archeological find at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert in 1978 uncovered three anthropomorphic figures dating back to 800 BCE at the end of the Iron age which referred separately to Yahweh, El, and Baal, implying they were three distinct but equally revered gods.[4]
It’s worth noting that the god Baal was one of the sons of El, and represented the direct rival to Yahweh, which is why the Old Testament god admonishes his followers not to worship the other gods, such as Baal. By the ninth century BCE we see telltale signs of a gradual turn toward monotheism where the old gods of the Israelites were supplanted and/or rejected in favor of a single, supreme god—i.e., Yahweh.[5]
The new god Yahweh was a warrior god from the northern region of Edom and Midian, near Judah, who grew in popularity until he eventually usurped El, the original God of Israel, and took himself a consort, Asherah (originally El’s wife) who is also referred to as the “Queen of Heaven” and who was worshipped alongside both El and Yahweh by early Israelites from roughly the seventh to ninth centuries BCE.[6]
With Yahweh’s rise to fame, however, Asherah became the new Hebrew god’s consort (Yahweh isn’t an adulterer so much as the Hebrews liked to pair Asherah with their preferred god and the Canaanites liked to pair her with theirs, in this case the god El). Meanwhile, Yahweh, the warrior god of the Hebrews, and Baal (son of El), [7] the preferred god of the Canaanites, co-existed together for a time, but around the tenth century BCE a shift occurred when Yahweh worship eventually became the popular religion and fully usurped Baal worship, thus leading to what would become the world’s major monotheistic religion.[8]
At any rate, all of this is old news, but all the same claiming as Randal does that Zeus was a created god but that Yahweh is the God of all things (implying he wasn’t created) isn’t entirely true. Modern day Jews may say that now, sure, but a closer look into the history of the Israelites reveals this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yahweh wasn’t always the god of all things. In fact, as we have seen, there was quite a bit of competition back in the day.
Evidently, history teaches us a different story than the one Christian apologists want us to hear. As it turns out, Yahweh didn’t create the other gods of the Israelite pantheon as Yahweh was a rather late addition, only solidifying into a monotheistic deity during the period of the United Monarchy ( circa 1020 and 930 BCE). It was during this period that Yahweh assimilated the traits of all the other gods in the Israelite pantheon and, ultimately, became the final representation of the Israelite god.
Present day monotheism, and so too the Jewish belief that Yahweh is the one true god (a belief adopted by early Christians), however, is the end result of a long process of religious evolution from an earlier, more robust Israelite polytheism. A serious scholar, such as Randal claims to be, who writes on the history of the Jews and the Israelites and their God should probably know all this if he intends to be taken seriously as a scholar.
In this case though, it’s clear that Randal takes the history of Yahweh and the Israelite pantheon completely for granted, ignoring the history which shows us that Yahweh was likely a created god along with all the rest of the Israelite pantheon, and no different from Zeus in this regard.





[1] See The Bible Unearthed: Archaelogy’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, pp. 241-42.

[2] The Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses by Michael Jordan, pp. 31-32; 41-42; 88-89; 218; & 278.

[3] See The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities in Ancient Israel, location 375 and 1167-1269; 1302 Kindle, ff. part 4. Asherah/asherah Revisited, by Mark Smith (2002), Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan by John Day, p. 32, and Archeology and fertility cult in the ancient Mediterranean, pp. 237-38, edited by Anthony Bonanno.

[4] Ze’ev Meshel, Kuntillet ‘Ajrud: An Israelite Religious Center in Northern Sinai, Expedition 20 (Summer 1978), pp. 50-55.

[5] Smith, The Early History of God, location 3098 Kindle.

[6]Ibid, location 985-1096, and 1302 Kindle.

[7] To learn more about Baal and the numerous reference to him found in the Old Testament please see “The Worship of Baal” available online at:
    http://www.bible-history.com/resource/ff_baal.htm

[8] See the PBS interview with William Dever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona. See: “Archeology of the Hebrew Bible,” and can be read online at:
   http://pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/archeology-hebrew-bible.html

Advocatus Athesit

Advocatus Athesit